Hitachi wants to spend $1.25 billion to fix Australia's social woes

Photo: Ian Waldie/Getty Images

A “Social Innovation” team sounds like a euphemistic government department in an authoritarian country. But Japanese tech conglomerate Hitachi says it’s serious about solving what it sees as Australia’s biggest challenges in the years head and has announced a $1.25 billion investment to back up the talk.

The money will go to Hitachi’s Australian Social Innovation arm, which has identified three “critical social issues” to focus on in this country — urbanisation, healthcare and primary industry.

Australia is experiencing problems such as “inadequate transportation infrastructure and chronic traffic congestion” the company says, adding that: “Growing population and dated infrastructure is placing increasing pressure on the healthcare system, and changes in the primary industry’s mining and agriculture sectors have given rise to the need for smart mining and agriculture technologies, including automation to help facilitate labor reduction in order to maintain competitiveness”.

Hitachi president and CEO Toshiaki Higashihara revealed the massive Australian Social Innovation investment at an event in Sydney last week.

“Hitachi will contribute to resolving Australian society’s social issues and to improve the quality of life for everyone,” he said, according to IoTHub.

The Japanese giant wants to resolve these social issues with artificial intelligence, the internet of things (IoT) and industry 4.0 — technologies that allow individual machines to make intelligent decisions based on feedback from their environment.

In June, the conglomerate started a research and development team in Sydney, and earlier this year launched its IoT platform Lumada, which supports collaboration between Hitachi, its partners and customers all the way from the idea stage to analysis, design, testing, simulation and implementation.

Hitachi said the acquisition-in-progress of Australian casting manufacturer Bradken combined with its IoT and AI technology would will allow it to “significantly differentiate itself” from rivals. In health, the company has already delivered particle beam therapy systems to more than 10 facilities internationally.

On the back of the $1.25 billion investment, Hitachi also predicted that it would triple its 2015 revenue in Australia by the 2020 financial year, to hit $3.75 billion.

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